The Mississippi River is the largest river in North America and is a major waterway for the maritime industry. Most of the commercial traffic on the Mississippi River consists of river tow boats pushing barges carrying dry bulk cargo, chemicals, or petroleum-based products. Workers on the Mississippi River typically work aboard line haul boats which transport cargo from location-to-location along the river system, or as fleet or harbor workers who work with barges at a local facility. If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed while working on the Mississippi River, federal maritime law applies. Maritime law is a unique body of law that differs in many respects from state or federal land-based law. That is why you need an experienced and knowledgeable maritime lawyer to represent you if an injury or death has occurred on the Mississippi River. The lawyers at O’Bryan Baun Karamanian have made maritime law their focus, and have the knowledge and experience to help you get the justice you deserve.
If you are injured while working on the Mississippi River, you are likely covered by the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal negligence statute that allows crew members to recover damages if they are injured during the course of their employment. The Jones Act requires the employer to provide its employees with a safe place to work. This obligation includes the duty to correct unsafe conditions, to provide adequate manpower for the task at hand, and provide adequate tools, equipment and supervision. If, for example, you hurt your back working as a deckhand pulling on a heavy face wire because you were not provided with adequate assistance, you could bring a Jones Act claim in court against your employer. Available damages include lost wages, loss of future earnings, medical bills, and damages for pain and suffering.
The general maritime law also affords a Mississippi River worker with a separate and distinct claim for unseaworthiness. Under the law, the vessel owner has an obligation to furnish a seaworthy vessel to the crew. Unseaworthiness means that some aspect of the vessel, her equipment or crew, is not reasonably fit for their intended purposes. There are many conditions that can render a vessel unseaworthy. Unreasonably slippery decks, equipment that breaks under normal use, and insufficient manpower for a task can all render a vessel unseaworthy. A classic case of unseaworthiness would be a capstan line breaking causing injury to a worker. Available damages for unseaworthiness are similar to those available under the Jones Act and include such things as lost wages, loss of future earnings, medical expenses, and damages for pain and suffering.
MAINTENANCE AND CURE:
As a Mississippi River worker, if you are injured or become ill while working on a vessel, you are entitled to maintenance and cure. Maintenance is a daily sustenance allowance while you are recovering from your injury or illness. Cure refers to the payment of your reasonable and necessary medical bills. Maintenance and cure are payable irrespective of fault. So long as you are injured or fall ill while in the service of the ship, you are entitled to maintenance and cure.
*Dennis M. O’Bryan is enrolled to practice before the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals which hears appeals from the federal district courts of Louisiana and Mississippi (5th), Kentucky and Tennessee (6th), Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana (7th), Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa and Minnesota (8th), respectively. He is a member of the bar of the federal district for the Eastern and Western District of Arkansas, Northern and Southern District of Illinois, Northern and Southern District of Indiana, and Northern District of Mississippi. In those federal district courts in which he is not generally enrolled to practice, he gains admission pro hac vice, on a case by case basis, by securing the sponsorship of a reputable local attorney. He is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, where his office is located.